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Published: August 8th 2007
177,500 people, 900 acres, over 350 acts ... I guess I should have known that everything associated with such a massive event was going to be a mission. So here it is ... my Glasto experience!!!
Mission 1 - Getting tickets
If it was not for Phillips, I would not have got Glasto tickets (champion). First, you had to send in a photo and register for your ticket. Then you had to log on at 9am on a Sunday morning to try and get tickets (with a maximum of 4 per punter).
Unluckily, on the 'great ticket buying day', both Adam and I were away.
Luckily, Phillips was planning to try for tickets and agreed to try for me too.
Unluckily, Phillips was invited to a wedding that weekend.
Luckily, he still agreed to try to get us tickets.
Unluckily, my wallet was stolen in Spain, and I had to cancel the card with which I had planned to pay for the tickets.
Luckily, (sensing a pattern here?), Phillips agreed to fund the purchase until my return to London.
Phillips and Yolande, champions that they are, tried for 3 hours before they got on line and got
A bit muddy
After falling over on the way in
the tickets. First hurdle, overcome.
Mission 2 - Getting there
Extra tickets were allocated this year - provided that the number of cars at the event did not increase. In order to ensure this, a bunch of the tickets (including the one I got) were specified as 'coach and ride' tickets - which meant that you were allocated coach tickets to and from the festival, and not given your actual event ticket until you were on the bus (a great system to make sure people actually get the coaches, but one with a few flaws (see below)).
Excited about the festival - although a little scared of the mud, as it had already been raining at the site, I braved the tube with my backpack and camping chair and headed to the coach departure point for 6pm Thursday. Arrived to a sea of coaches and punters patiently waiting to be called. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the order in which the buses were called, so Adam and I were not too concerned as they called out 362, 361 and 364, but not our bus, 363. I started to get a little concerned when,
by about 8 pm, the parking lot had started to empty of coaches, with no sign of replacements entering the area and no call for 363.
I was more concerned when the 'man with the megaphone' (MWTM) called those of us that were remaining to gather for 'an announcement' at about 9pm. Turns out a bunch of buses simply were not coming (who knows why?) including the elusive 363. The MWTM said that, if we could get to the site, we'd be able to park and get into the festival that way (Good for us, as Adam has a car - and, for us, driving home was infinitely preferable to catching a stinky coach (60 people, rain, no showers for 3 - 4 days, moshing ... lovely) but not so good for others - including the angry, yelling girl next to me who, it seems, had caught a plane from Dublin).
But what of our tickets? No worries, said the MWTM, he had the tickets for 4 of the no-show coaches with him. Unfortunately, 363 was not one of the ticket sets he had. No worries again - MWTM says just take our reference number to the gate,
Best item I brought to the festival!!! Sitting down elsewhere was impossible.
and we'd be allocated a new ticket.
As there seems little point in heading to the Festival in the dark and rain - given a likely ticket shambles at the other end - we decide to sleep at home, with an early departure to ensure we still get the best of Friday's festivities. Ever cautious, I call the ticket office to check that we really will be able to get into the site, and that there is not special place we need to go to get the necessary tickets. I am told ' No worries, just go to any gate, all your details are on our computer system'.
Mission 3 - Getting in
True to our word, we are up in the fives on Friday and on our way to the 'World's Biggest Festival' (WBF). Traffic is not too bad and excitement is high as we approach the site. True, we have to park far from the gates, but we console ourselves with the thought that our departure will be smoother. We have no trouble parking - even though we have to buy a parking voucher - security knows all about the bus/ticketing issues and we confirm
we just need to go to the gate to get our tickets. All good so far.
We don our wellies, shoulder our packs and head to the gate. There is already some mud, although the sun is out, and our step is light as we follow the crowd to the WBF.
We arrive at the gate. The man is surprised we don't have a ticket. He tells us to walk back up the steep muddy hill we just slithered and slipped down to the 'ticket office' where we can 'make our case'. Hmmm, sounds a bit ominous. We adjust our packs on out backs and set off, against the traffic, back up the hill, our step a little less light and the sun seeming a little less pleasant.
At the 'ticket office' (more an information point) we are told we are, indeed, in the wrong place. We need to go from Gate 'C' to gate 'A' where the main ticket office will sort us out. We look at the map, factor in the walk back to the car and the likely walk from the spot were we will park to gate 'A' and make the (incorrect) decision
We saw plenty of lost boots and shoes
to leave the care where it is and walk.
We slither back down the hill and turn away from the gate, around the perimeter of the site. We can't see the festival, the security fence, which has drastically reduced gatecrashing and crime, foils our wish to feel like we are part of the WBF, even though we are not inside yet. A mate calls and says 'Where are you?'. I tell him 'Not in, not long, we just have to pick up our tickets'.
We keep walking around the perimeter. It is hot and I wish I was in shorts instead of jeans.
It starts to rain. I am glad, as it is cooling. It keeps raining. I am less glad.
We reach gate 'B'. People are going into the WBF. We walk past.
We keep walking.
We are directed along particular roads. We are no longer following the perimeter fence. It feels like we are walking away from the WBF. That is because we are. Up a hill. On the plus side, my wellies are not hurting my feet.
The rain gets heavier. People drive past. They don't stop. (I can't blame
After a few ciders...
them, we are wet and we have lots of bags). We are on a narrow road with no footpath. We must be near the gate as the traffic is quite slow. I am in the way of cars but there is nowhere to go and by now I don't care. An empty bus goes past. I want to be on it. I don't even really care where it is going. The bus is stopped in the traffic, I walk past it. It is still raining. The bus goes past again ... and stops! The door opens and the driver (my new best friend, Jonathan) says 'Are you going to the coach park?' When I nod, he says, 'Hop on, the rain is only going to get heavier'. I am so glad I want to jump for joy, but I am too tired, all I can do is smile. We have been walking for over 1.5 hours.
We get the the coach park and are told we are not in the right place. We need to get a free shuttle coach to somewhere else and, get our tickets there and then return to the gate. I ask the girl to
promise we will really get our tickets as I won't be able to stand being redirected again. She promises, and offers me some of her Strongbow and room in her 'office' (shed) to leave our bags while we pick up the tickets. She says it's because I have a nice face, but I know it is because I look like crap!!
We get the shuttle bus. I go into the ticket office, ready for a fight, but guess what? Our tickets are there!!!
We get back to gate 'A' and, finally, we are part of the WBF. It has taken over 4 hours from when we parked the car.
Mission 4 - Getting a campsite (aka 'I am a healer')
While we are inside the WBF, we still have our packs and no campsite. We start walking. It is muddy, but not too precarious - or so I think until I fall over in the mud. People cheer, I am not amused.
We walk towards gate 'C', thinking we may as well park near the exit to the car. Tents are on top of one another. It is so cramped people are camped right
next to the toilets (which are already smelly). It seems to me the tents are already set up in mud pits (little did I know) so prospects of finding a 'good spot' are not looking that good. We keep walking and finally find a space.
We set up the tent, I change from my muddy, wet jeans and we are finally ready to see a band. A woman walks up to us and says 'Are you healers?'. Adam says yes, and she goes away. She is not convinced though. She comes back and asks again if we are healers. She says that we can't camp there unless we are healers as we are in the healing fields. She is worried about us creating negative energy. We did not see any "no camping" signs. We ask her to give us a break. She refuses and says she will have to get the 'head healer'. Adam tells her she's creating the negative energy and she should leave us alone or get the head healer. He calls her elitist. She's not happy and tells us she feels she has to get the 'head healer' as she goes away. We stick around for
a while, but the head healer does not come, so we leave to actually try and see some live music.
Later, when I return to the tent, a man points to our tent and asks if it is mine. I say yes and he asks if I am a healer. I say no, and he tells me I can't camp there. He tells me that the people in charge of the healing field have 'heard about us' and have 'been to look at our tent'. It is raining and I am more of a scaredy cat than Adam, so I tell him we've had a really bad day, we are happy to try and move the tent tomorrow, but today I just want to see a bit of the WBF. After I promise there are 'no more of us', we will be quiet and we won't bring others back to the campsite, he seems to accept us staying, at least for one night.
I feel healed.
It seems that we did not disrupt the energy too much, as no one slashed or interfered with our tent while we were away.
As it turns out, we don't
move the tent. We think about it a couple of times on the Saturday, but the sun never stays out long enough for it to get dry enough to carry. We avoid the other healers, which is easy, as we don't spend much time at the tent. We actually have a great spot, as it is not too busy. By Sunday, we see other tents covered with mud, with small 'creeks' flowing past/under them. I am grateful we are not camping amongst that
Mission 5 - Getting around
Now I knew Glasto would be muddy. I knew it had been raining prior to the WBF. I knew that 30,000 more people were going this year than last year. I knew the site was big. BUT, I only 'knew' this in the most abstract of ways.
I did not realise how big the site was (it is HUGE) or how far it was from stage to stage (a long walk). Getting anywhere was a mission.
Because of the mud. Oh yes, the mud. It just got deeper and deeper and deeper. It was EVERYWHERE! Again, I knew that there would be mud. I just didn't really appreciate how much there would be everywhere. I guess I kind of thought that the mud would be bad at the main stages and the main thoroughfares:
Not that every single path would be covered in deep mud.
Not that you could not go anywhere without squelching through it.
Not that it would be an effort to walk as the mud would grip onto your boots and nearly pull them off.
By Sunday, it was not clear what was better, the soupy, squishy mud that was easy to slosh through, but very slippery, or the thick, gooey, 'semi-melted chocolate' consistency mud that creates a suction-cup effect every time I lift my boot. At least I don't fall over again. As you might guess, by day 3, I am a bit over it. I console myself by imagining how trying it must be for the many people struggling with small children in strollers (why would you???).
The good bits The Music:
Believe it or not, we did actually get to see some bands!!!! Shirley Bassey is amazing, the Cat Empire are still awesome live, Arcade Fire and the Kaiser Chiefs rock, the Killers overcame the problems with the sound system, and Maximo Park, CSS and the Klaxons were fun. We don’t rate Babyshambles, Sandi Thom or the Hours and I wish I could have made it to see John Fogerty, Crazy Penis, Guilty Pleasures, Marely Bros, the Maccabees and many others. Our camping chairs:
The best £4.50 I ever spent The pear cider:
The Brothers Bar - Love it!!!! The lack of queues:
Apart from the queue to get pass outs when we dropped our gear at the car on Sunday arvo (who ever heard of queuing to get OUT of a festival?), queues for toilets, food, drink (except the pear cider) and so on were not bad at all (and, to be honest, none of the loos I went to were as bad as I had been lead to believe) The vibe:
Amazing, considering the trying conditions. The sheer range of ‘stuff’:
Circus tent, comedy acts, people in costume, mud wrestling, robot guy, the madness of Lost Vagueness, pedal powered saws and much, much, much more. Our camping chairs:
no really, carrying them with us was the best decision we ever made Being part of the WBF.
It was great to be a part of it. Given all of the above, it's hard to explain why I didn't hate it - but I didn't. Although, I am not going to pretend it was the best weekend of my life either.
As to whether I will go back .... I think only if I get a caravan pitch. Yep, I am old - (the only other way is to arrive early on Wednesday to get a site, and that seems like too much commitment, given the Festival does not even start till Friday!!!)
So what will I remember about Glasto?
· The squelch, squelch of thousand of boots being pulled out of the mud, every step
· Thousands of hands clapping in time to the music
· The pitter patter of rain on the tent, on the mud, on my waterproof jacket
· Every band asking “How do you like the mud, Glastonbury?!?!
· The smell of the chemical toilets
· The waft of ‘the great unwashed’ from the sea of tents whenever the rain stopped and the sun came out
· Sticky cider covered arms (no spillage is impossible on the muddy ground)
· Aching calves - all that walking through the mud, it’s gotta be good for your legs right?
· Mud, mud and more mud
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